Roger L. Simon

AP: The Great 'Byline Strike' of '08

I read with amusement that reporters and photographers for the Associated Press are staging (via the Newspaper Guild) a ‘byline strike.’  Say what?  To stage a such a strike people have to have heard of you, but practically no one is more anonymous than a writer for a news service.  It almost comes with the job description. You are the “Associated Press,” not yourself.  The AP is not exactly where you find the next Norman Mailer. News service reporters are not even as well known as bloggers.  I mean whose names are more famous to the general public at his point –  Glenn Reynolds, Michelle Malkin and (yikes) Markos Moulitsas or [insert any Associated Press writer here]?

Not that I don’t have some sympathy for my AP colleagues. These are trying times for all in the media.  But they made a choice by joining a news service and that choice was for a form of literary facelessness.  Also, they opted for a form of homogenization, since the AP and other news services are by mission supposed to be uniform in style and content.

And therein lies the rub.  Of recent years the uniformity of the Associated Press in publishing a kind of bland, accepted liberalism of the most uninspired (and sometimes distorted) sort may be the root of their business woes – not the presence (or not) of  bylines or even the current economic situation, although the latter certainly plays a part.  I would suggest to the writers and owners of the AP that they consider opening up their company to people of different biases and opinions.  They are supposed to be a news service, after all, not a ideological distribution center.  People on the more extreme right love to compare them to Tass.  That’s not fair.  The AP is nowhere near as bad as that.  But they are pretty bad.  And they are failing economically.  And when you’re failing economically, you’re supposed to do something. [Maybe they’re waiting for a TARP bailout.-ed. I’d rather drive a Buick.]